Master in Communications: Carrie Willemsen

It’s time for another viewpoint of the communications industry. We have loved sharing these perspectives through our CIPR Communications’ ‘Masters in Comms’ blog series.

Every week we feature a new professional that has proven to be a true Master of Communications in their respective field.

Our goal? To learn from one another! There are valuable lessons to be learned from fellow communicators – from risks they’ve taken, to words of advice, what motivates them and how they strike a balance between life and work.

In this week’s blog, we hear from Carrie Willemsen - Manager, Corporate Communications at Valard Construction LP.


“Don’t ever assume you’re not the smartest person in the room”.

- Carrie Willemsen

Q: What is the best piece of professional advice you ever received? Who provided it? 

A: “Don’t ever assume you’re not the smartest person in the room”. My current CEO, Adam Budzinski gave this advice to a room full of experts in their respective fields. It stuck with me. We all need to hear from one another – and in that room I was the smartest when it came to communications.

Q: What is the biggest challenge and opportunity for communicators today?

A: Retaining traditional standards for communication. We have so many means and methods at our disposal, to communicate, but that often gives people the excuse to not deliver messages one-on-one. As tough and time consuming as it is, there are often relationship-building benefits down the road.

Q: What project would you consider your most significant career accomplishment to date?

A: Engaging the remote and scattered blue collar workforce at my current employer. Through leveraging a combination of a new network of communicators that are working in the field, digital screens to share information, newsletters, and social media, our company has seen more engagement than ever before. You must use multiple forms of communications delivering the same message to ensure that everyone is being communicated with.

Q: What do you read to keep your brain sharp?

A:  I subscribe to over 20 publications and read a lot of non-fiction, biographical books.

Q: Choose just one for the rest of your life while letting go of the others forever: Beer, wine, cannabis, coffee, chocolate.

A: Chocolate! The others don’t even come close!

Q: Where do you see communications five years from now?

A: I hope we will have more useable analytics that identify our communications gaps both internally and externally. With the average attention span shortening, I think we’ve hit the bottom and people will start realizing that reading or absorbing something longer than a tweet might be better for them in the long run.

Q: What advice would you give to someone that’s just entering the field of communications?

A: Best job EVER! Every day a communicator must find a balance – you aim to make everyone happy while at the same time ensuring messaging is truthful, engaging and informative. If you aren’t willing to be the voice of reason - maybe reconsider the career choice.

Q: What do you know today you wish you had known when you first started your career?

A: Common sense prevails. When a project or discussion seems to have no acceptable resolution, it’s always best to go back to basics as ask why we’re all working on this in the first place.

Q: What drives you crazy?

A: Narrow, uninformed minds that are not open to listening.

Q: Is it better to be perfect and late, or good and on time?

A: Good and on time – I believe punctuality is tied to whether you’re a reliable, dependable, trustworthy person.

Q: What do you love and dislike about your job?

A: I love that I can interact with a laborer and the president in the same hour and walk away feeling I was of service to both. I dislike that communication is still not a key topic for discussion in all C-Suites and boardrooms.

Q: Who is the smartest person you know and why?

A: My mother. She’s currently several years into residence at a seniors’ facility because dementia has robbed her of her mind and independence. For years leading up to the illness, I saw her utilize numerous cagy tactics to masquerade her fear, confusion, and frustration under a guise of “not understanding”. Why did she go to those efforts when her attention could have been on much more selfish endeavours – to spare us and our feelings. Once in a while, I see in her eyes that she’s totally aware of how heartbreaking her situation is but has enough strength of mind (and ironic sense of humour) to maintain the façade.

Thank you, Carrie. We love the variety of communications projects that you get to work on at Valard Construction LP – as you said, from the laborer to the c-suite – your experience has seen it all!

If you’re interested in being a part of our blog series, send us a note.